“You are too sensitive!”
“Can’t you take a joke?”
“Why aren’t you drinking? What is wrong with you? Fun sponge!”
“I didn’t say that. You are making things up again”
Do you hear these words or similar on a regular basis? Do you second guess yourself or feel guilty for things that, deep down, you know is not your fault? Feeling as though you are walking on eggshells for fear of upsetting the peace is not ok. Neither is constantly apologising to try to smooth things over, even though you know that you didn’t do/say anything wrong.
Gaslighting is the term used to describe a form of emotional abuse that causes the victim to question their own feelings, thoughts and actions. It happens gradually over a period of time and gives the abuser power and control over the relationship and the victim. Eventually, the victim is afraid to express how they truly feel; or is lost in a fog of confusion about their true thoughts and feelings. The victim begins to lose their sense of self and becomes unsure. Their self esteem and confidence becomes eroded daily.
The signs that you are a victim of gaslighting may be some or all of the following:
- Second guessing yourself.
- Feeling guilty for simply ‘feeling’ or expressing feelings.
- Feeling confused or as though you are going ‘insane’.
- Constantly apologising and trying to make things ‘right’ in the relationship.
- Knowing that things in the relationship are wrong but not understanding why.
- Feeling as though you used to be happy but now have a constant feeling of stress or anxiety without really knowing why.
- You begin to withdraw from social groups or make excuses for not wishing to socially interact.
- You constantly blame yourself for everything.
- You feel emotionally unstable, depressed, nervous and anxious.
Common types of emotional abuse include:
- Isolating the victim.
- Withholding finances.
- Sarcasm and invalidation/denial of victims feelings
- Verbal assaults
- Ignoring/Stone walling/refusing to talk
All of the above will have an effect on the victims mental health. In the worse case, emotional abuse can led to physical abuse. If you are being abused you can get help from the police as domestic abuse is a criminal offence. Organisations such as Women’s Aid can help you with this process and offer support.
If you would like to talk though anything that you have read here, or if you feel that you may be a victim of emotional abuse but are unsure, then a counsellor can help with validating your experience and help you to see though the fog that emotional abuse can create. I can offer you support and validation. You will be listened to in confidence. Please get in touch for further information.